Allergen Challenge Alters Intracellular Cytokine Expression


J. Lundahl, Division of Clinical Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital, S-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:


The pathophysiology of asthma is complex and engages cascades of events in the cytokine network. We, therefore, investigated the impact of bronchial allergen challenge in humans on the cytokine profile of circulating lymphocytes. Peripheral blood samples from 10 patients with allergic asthma were collected before and 24 h after allergen provocation. Patients who mounted a late-phase reaction were designated dual responders opposite to single responders. Whole blood cells were stimulated by mitogen and intracellular interleukin (IL)-4 and interferon (IFN)-γ were detected by flow cytometry. The allergen challenge induced a decrease in IL-4+CD4+ cells in the patients (P = 0.05), and a significant decrease (P < 0.05) in IFN-γ+CD4+ cells was noted in single, but not dual, responders. In addition, there was a significant difference (P < 0.01) with respect to the changes in the IFN-γ+CD4+ cells comparing dual and single responders. No corresponding changes were observed in CD8+ cells. The data suggest a possible on-going traffic of IFN-γ and IL-4+CD4+ lymphocytes into the bronchial mucosa in relation to an allergen challenge and generate the hypothesis that a difference exists between single and dual responders in this respect. Because the CD4+IFN-γ-producing cells have the capacity to downregulate the T-helper type 2 response, a reduced capacity in this aspect might contribute to the pathophysiology in dual responders.